Under current California law, an employer with an establishment in California must report a serious work-related injury, illness or death that occurs at the employer’s place of employment or in connection with their employment to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health by telephone or email within 8 hours after the employer knows or with diligent inquiry would have known of the death or serious injury or illness.

Serious injury or illness is defined in section 330(h), Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations as “… any injury or illness occurring in a place of employment or in connection with any employment which requires inpatient hospitalization for a period in excess of 24 hours for other than medical observation or in which an employee suffers a loss of any member of the body or suffers any serious degree of permanent disfigurement, but does not include any injury or illness or death caused by the commission of a Penal Code violation, except the violation of section 385 of the Penal Code, or an accident on a public street or highway.”

A recent bill passed by the California State Legislature would amend that law requiring employers to make such reports immediately by telephone or through an online mechanism established by the division for that purpose. If signed into law, the bill would require that employers be permitted to continue to make such reports by telephone or email until the division has made the online mechanism available.

The legislative history of the bill indicates that the need for the revision is based on a belief that email reporting is problematic. Specifically, “receiving emailed reports of serious injuries and deaths has proved problematic for Cal/OSHA because, unlike telephone reporting, it allows for incomplete accident reports. When an employer reports an injury or fatality by email, it can neglect to provide meaningful information about the workplace incident. When Cal/OSHA receives incomplete information, its ability to promptly initiate an investigation, or take any other action, is significantly curtailed and this impacts Cal/OSHA’s ability to effectively ensure workplace safety. By amending Labor Code Section 6409.1(b) to allow for online reporting of workplace fatalities or serious injuries, AB 1804 will allow Cal/OSHA to implement a more effective and responsive reporting system.”

The bill must now be signed by the California Governor by October 12, 2019 and if signed the law would be effective January 1, 2020.